Divisional Round Recap+Get Excited, Bills Fans+The Denver Domino Fall

Note: I am not writing about Saturday’s games.  I didn’t see them due to my attendance at the Spurs-Timberwolves game that night. This column focuses on Sunday’s game.

Crazy endings, bad calls, upsets, UNEXPECTED FIRINGS.  It’s the playoffs!  What more do you expect?

Green Bay-26 Dallas-21

What a game.  What else did we expect?  There was no shortage of drama in this one.  Both QBs played through injury, with Aaron Rodgers playing on a torn calf muscle.  Tony Romo suffered a minor knee injury in the third quarter, but it didn’t have a huge impact.

As we know, the Cowboys got away with a big call last weekend against Detroit, one that helped them win the game.  This week, that changed a bit.

The game was very competitive.  The teams traded scores multiple times, and no one was ever down by two possessions.  The Packers though, had a tough time in the first half keeping up.  Aaron Rodgers was in visible pain in the second quarter, but his team was only down 14-10 at halftime. Rodgers fought through the pain, and put an incredible stat line of 24/35, 316 yards and three TD’s.  He did fumble in the first quarter.

Dallas used their weapons nicely, with DeMarco Murray running for 123 yards and a TD.  Jason Witten had a nice receiving day, with 71 yards and a couple classic Witten-like catches.  Tony Romo didn’t do a whole lot, throwing the ball only 15 times for 191 yards.  2 TD passes were thrown by him in the first half, but that wasn’t when they needed them.

With 4:12 left in the 3rd quarter, DeMarco Murray ran in a TD, putting Dallas up 21-13.  At this point, Aaron Rodgers hadn’t looked great, visibly limping.  I was concerned for the Packers, fearing the offense would be stagnant without him at his best.  But all Green Bay did was prove me wrong.

2:31 later, Aaron Rodgers threw a 46 yard bomb to Davante Adams, who made some great moves after the catch, for a TD, cutting the Cowboys’ lead to one.  Now, the Packers owned the momentum.

Adams had a great day with 117 yards and a TD.

They kept it.  A drive later, the Packers went 80 yards down the field, and Rodgers found RICHARD Rodgers in the end zone, giving Green Bay the lead, in what I would call a comeback.

The next 9:10 though, was something we and the Cowboys will never forget.

After a great drive by Dallas, they had a decision to make with 4:42 left on the Green Bay 32 yard line.  On 4th&2, Dallas was down five.  If they punted or kicked the field goal, it wouldn’t have done them any good.  Giving the ball to Green Bay wouldn’t of been smart.  Dallas went for it, and boy, did it get wild.

This was the play call.  A deep shot to Dez Bryant, who made an outstanding, leaping catch.  It set the Cowboys up perfectly.

However, the Packers challenged it, saying he didn’t maintain possession of the ball going to the ground.

I thought it was a catch.  His elbow was down with the ball in his hand!

After review, the refs overturned it, giving the ball to Green Bay, who killed the clock and converted a key 3rd down, caught by Davante Adams, of course.

And that’s how the Cowboys’ season ended.  A bad call at the end of a game, sounds a lot like last week, right?

I don’t want to here the karma talk.  It was a bad call.  Okay, maybe it was karma, but still.  It’s silly.

It was a great effort by Dez Bryant, who was visibly upset at the end of the game, deservedly so.

All in all, the Cowboys beat my expectations for them this year.  Their defense was outstanding. It kept them in games.  Really, it’s too bad it ended this way.

As for Green Bay, Aaron Rodgers makes things happen, no matter how hurt he is.  Everyone put in effort Sunday.  Now, they’re playing for a chance to the Super Bowl.

To quote Lebron James after the winning the 2013 NBA Finals, “You need a little bit of luck.”

Indianpolis-24 Denver-13

Yes, I’m a little shocked.  If anything, I thought this would be close and exciting.  I wanted to take the Colts.  I really did.  I knew this had to happen.

It did. It sure did.

The biggest question: How did the Broncos’ offense play this bad?

What killed them:  Andrew Luck had a huge game, and Denver couldn’t respond.

The game was close in the first half.  Both teams went back and forth, and it was clear early on that Luck was going off.  He, for the second week in a row, had amazing protection, allowing him to shine.

It was also clear early that the Broncos were off (sounds familiar) (FLASHBACK) (FLASHBACK)(FLASHBACK).  They had scored twice in the first half, and only had one TD.   It came with 10 minutes left in the 1st quarter!  Still, Denver only trailed by four at halftime.

Andrew Luck’s massive day included two picks, but he threw for 265 yards and 2 TD’s, and made some incredible throws (Hey, that happened last week too!).  With Trent Richardson being a HEALTHY scratch, the Colts threw it around a bit more.  T.Y. Hilton had 72 yards, and Colby Fleener had a decent day.

Boom Herron, the Colts featured back, did run in a TD.

Denver’s offense looked frozen (It wasn’t that cold!).  Peyton Manning had a rough day, going 26/46 and 211 yards.  The accuracy was the main problem Sunday.  Adam Gase called a ton of deep throws, throws that Manning was struggling to make.  Some went over his receivers’ head, some where too short.

Manning hasn’t been himself the past three weeks.  I know he’s been hurt, but he had a week off for this game.  I expected a lot better from him.  His team though, didn’t totally help him.  His receivers had trouble getting open, against a sneaky good Colts secondary.

That was the biggest shock of this game.  Indianapolis’ secondary has been the bright spot of their defense, but boy, it did quite a job Sunday shutting down the Broncos’ wide receivers.  They totally outplayed Denver’s “pro-bowl” secondary.

Denver’s offensive failure is what plagued them.  You have to score against Andrew Luck.  He will, no matter who’s around him, will make things happen.  That, is something we have now realized.

As for Peyton Manning’s future, this just might be the end.  Just might.

Ugh.  It’s so hard to think about, but he just hasn’t looked himself.  You really have to wonder what will come out these next couple of weeks.

News: Bills hire Rex Ryan as Head Coach:

On Sunday morning, it was reported the Bills had hired Rex Ryan to become their new head coach.  Doug Marrone opted out of his contract last week, and has been actively interviewing with other teams.

I love the hire by Buffalo.  Many saw Atlanta as the favorites for Ryan, due to a defense that has mightley struggled the past couple years.  The Bears also expressed interest in Ryan.

With Buffalo, Ryan has a stacked defense to work with.  With Marcel Dareus and Mario Williams on the line, and Kiko Alonso behind, the run defense is outstanding.  Ryan can only improve it, and even bring guys to him.

On the other side of the ball, however, it’s the same story is was with the Jets:  No QB.

The Bills were shocked when Kyle Orton retiring after having a fantastic year, and kept the Bills in the playoff hunt.  It leaves them with E.J. Manuel, who was benched early in the season, after they realized he wasn’t the answer.

The Bills have two options.  First, it depends on where the front office and Rex stands with how far away this team is.  I believe that a QB is all this team needs.  With a great defense and young talent on the offense, that’s all it will take.  Since you this talent, why draft someone, and wait three years for them to develop?

With this hire, add Buffalo to the list of teams looking to trade for someone this Spring.  A decent QB is all they need.

Rex Ryan walks into a nice situation with the Bills.  Honestly, I’m convinced though, that the Jets situation is no worse than Buffalo’s.  Translation: Add them to the list of teams looking trade for someone.  Don’t waste your talent.

MORE NEWS: John Fox and the Broncos part ways:

Did anyone see this coming?  I was shocked.  I couldn’t believe it.  At around 4:00 PM CST yesterday, it was released that the Broncos and head coach John Fox had mutually parted ways.

First, I think this wasn’t mutual.  The Broncos realized that their team hasn’t been able to win in the playoffs, due to… well…. offensive collapses, things being off, bad defense, etc.  Denver has to think that changing this starts with the coaches.  Offensive coordinator Adam Gase has been a hot commodity of other teams, from the likes of the Jets and 49ers.  Now, an opportunity arises with his current team.

Fox himself will be a hot commodity now.  Teams who were sold on someone else may change their mind and bring Fox in for an interview.  I expect him to be a head coach next year.

This change is key in Peyton Manning’s possible retirement this offseason.  Manning has said he isn’t fully committed to next season, and said he needs some time to think about it.  Manning also said that it may depend on who’s here.

So, would Adam Gase becoming head coach keep Manning in the league?  Did the John Fox firing tick him off?  Would Manning not be fond of having a new coach come in this late in his career?

These are all questions that we will find out soon.  As for now, nobody knows.  Nobody has a clue.

Next week:

NFC Championship Game: Green Bay Packers vs. Seattle Seahawks, 3:05 PM EST

AFC Championship Game: Indianpolis Colts vs. New England Patriots, 6:40 PM EST

2015 National Championship Preview

We’ve made it.  We’ve made here, to the National Championship.  We completed the playoff round, and now have two teams, who deserve to be here.  That, has now been proven.

Oregon provided a decent surprise in the first playoff game, whooping Florida State 59-20.  Oregon simply outscored Florida State, while more than capitalizing on their mistakes.  Jameis Winston did not play well, setting an unfortunate tone for the rest of the game.  I believed Oregon was the best team in the playoff, and they’re one game away from proving me right.

Ohio State, on the other hand, gave us an incredible game against Alabama.  Winning 42-35, this was a game that made you speechless.  You had no idea what to think.  No words could come out of your mouth.  You thought the game was going one way, then it changed.  The Buckeyes did fabulous attacking Alabama.  Ohio State also capitalized off of a shaky Crimson Tide QB.

Let’s get to the grand prize now.  Again, these teams deserve to be here.  They have proven that.

National Championship: No.4 Ohio State vs. No.2 Oregon, January 12th, 8:30 PM EST

Going into this game, both teams are probably saying the same thing.  “We have to score, or we will fall behind.”

It’s true.  Oregon’s offense has repeatedly shown us just how good they are.  It doesn’t matter who they are playing.  Marcus Mariota is the best player in the country.  He is unstoppable.  He makes everyone around him better.  There isn’t any right way to defend him.  No matter what, you can’t let him escape the pocket, because he will destroy with his legs.  Marietta’s skills are NFL worthy, and that’s what the Buckeyes are going to be dealing with.

Oregon’s offense though, doesn’t just consist of Mariota.  The team is actually quite balanced.  The running game that is featured is a power-like run game.  They love to go up the middle.  The Ducks have speed with their backs too, allowing them bust out into the open field.  The Buckeyes defense has a lot to deal with.  They have to keep the edges close.  Mariota will kill you if let him outside.  Ohio State has to close the gaps with their linebackers also.  Allowing Oregon to go up the gaps will leave a heavy cost.

Ohio State will have a tougher time clogging those gaps.  Though their defense is a lot better than Oregon’s, the run defense hasn’t been great this year.  Oregon, if they can’t throw on the Buckeyes, should look to go to the run game.  Ohio State’s pass defense is much better than it’s run.  The Buckeyes have held teams under 195 yards passing a game.  Keeping Mariota in the pocket will pressure him to force things.  Though he has only thrown four interceptions all year, he’s better on move.  Mariota is still incredible no matter where he is on field.  It’s a matter of where he moves to, and if the Buckeyes will let him get there.

By now, you know what you’re getting with Ohio State on offense.  It’s doesn’t matter who their QB is.  Nothing matters with them.  Who they play is going to preform.  Cardale Jones blew me away against Alabama, making some ridiculous deep throws.  He is big arm, big stature quarterback.  He’s huge and a pain to tackle.

The Buckeyes aren’t going to be afraid to throw deep again.  They weren’t scared against Alabama, one of the nation’s best defenses.  And in this game, they should be letting it fly.  Oregon’s had issues all year defending the air game.  Really, they aren’t good at all in pass defense.  When playing Arizona for the first time this year, they gave up all sorts of deep passes from Anu Solomon.  Ohio State really needs to do what they do.  They don’t have to change much.  Throw the ball as much as you can, because Oregon will give something up.

Since J.T. Barrett’s injury, Ohio State has trusted the pass and Cardale Jones.  However, Ohio State can run the ball excellently.  Heck, they’re 10th in the nation.  They ran surprisingly well against Alabama.  The Buckeyes have the offense to hang with Oregon.  The big question is if the defense can step up.

This game, I believe, will resemble Ohio State-Alabama.  I expect a lot of points, and tons of action.  This should be pretty back&forth.  These teams can score fast.  Like, really fast.  There will be a stretch in this game featuring back-to-back-to-back quick scores.  It’s going to happen.

Oregon has to play good defense.  They got lucky with Florida State.  The Seminoles turned the ball over.  They pretty much helped them out.  Ohio State has to keep Marcus Mariota contained.  He has to stay in the pocket.  That is their main key to this game.  If he goes off, and the Buckeyes let him escape, they’re done.

Oregon has to outscore Ohio State.  That is their key.  This could come down to the last possession, setting up an incredible game.

However, Oregon has Marcus Mariota.  He makes things happen.  There isn’t any reason to think that he will do anything different.  He’s just too good.  Mariota might be the one thing that gives Oregon the edge.

Ohio State is going to keep this thing close.  They have a decent shot at taking this title.  Some think they will.  Oregon though, is just too mighty.

Prediction: Oregon-42 Ohio State-37

Blockbuster! Knicks Shed Cap, While Cleveland Confuses Many

We had a really big trade completed last night in the NBA.  One that confused some and one that got people excited, well, some what.

The Knicks were the main piece of it.  Cleveland was the big receiver, while Oklahoma City gets another guard to help move the ball around.  Let’s lay it out, then break it down:

Thunder get: Dion Waiters

Cavaliers get: Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith, 1st round pick (protected) from Oklahoma City

Knicks get: Alex Kirk, Lou Amundson, and Lance Thomas, 2nd round pick from Cleveland

So, that’s a blockbuster.  Most of those names you’ve heard before, except for the guys the Knicks received.  Those I’m not to sure about.

It doesn’t matter though.  The Knicks have waived those three players, plus Samuel Dalembert, who they acquired from Dallas when they shipped Tyson Chandler there this past Summer.

The move is a total money dump.  Shedding J.R. Smith’s salary applies to next year, where he is owed $6.4 million.  Smith has also been in nothing but off the court issues and controversies.  It’s what many have called a change in culture.  One that could maybe change the way the locker room flows, especially on this losing team.

Trading Shumpert was no surprise.  As a Knicks supporter, I love Shumpert.  I love his game (and his hair).  I think it’s unique in this league.

Though, to add on what I said above, his name was floated last year in trade talks.  Truthfully, this was no surprise to me.  The possibility of trading him now was as high as it could have been.

Shumpert is also an expiring contract, which makes him more valuable on the market.  The Cavaliers won’t be forced to pay him anything next year.  As Howard Beck noted on Twitter, it’s likely that the Knicks didn’t have any interest in re-signing him after this season.

It’s unfortunate.  But then again, as a Knicks supporter, I understand that trading these guys will help us this coming Summer.  We will have cap space, more than we would of if we kept those two guys.  It may help us add a nice free agent.

The fact that I don’t know who the three guys the Knicks acquired says a lot, and I’m glad we waived them.  It takes up space and roster spots.

This is already a lost season for New York.  They’ve won five games, and have battled turmoil and injuries all season.  Getting rid of these guys now was the right thing to do.

When I first heard that Cleveland was involved in a trade, I immediately thought it would be for a big man.  Brandon Bass was the first person who crossed my mind in Boston.  When I realized they were part of this three team trade, I was confused.  Why would Cleveland, trade for forwards and guards when the need a true center, or even a plain big man who can do dirty work?

It made no sense.  I don’t like this move for Cleveland.  Shipping Dion Waiters out made sense, though, with the acquirement of Shumpert and Smith, but why?  Why did they want J.R. Smith.  I mean, on the sarcastic side, Dion Waiters and J.R. Smith are literally the same dudes!  They don’t get along with anyone and just cause trouble!

Anyways, the Shumpert move I like more than anything.  He will open the floor a little more for Cleveland.  He will take quality shots, and can drain three’s.  His defense is great, which any help to the Cavaliers on the defensive side of the ball will boost them.

J.R. Smith going along is where this gets odd.  Smith isn’t a good shooter, if you factor in his decision making when it comes to high percentage shots, he’s not great.  He’s like the baseball player who bats .265 the whole year, then goes on a crazy streak like .350, 10 HR’s and a 20 game hit streak in a month.  The after the streak, goes back to his old ways.  Smith will have big nights.  It’s hot&cold.  One or the other you will get with Smith.  One night he shoots 30%, the other he has eight threes.  It really just depends, and for a contender, that’s not exactly what you want.

Then we get to the Thunder, who landed Dion Waiters from the Cavaliers.

This move is really interesting.  It started more exaggerated than it is.  First reports had Reggie Jackson going to the Knicks, but that was later shot down, as he will stay put.

The move for the Thunder is strictly for depth.  Oklahoma City can rotate Waiters in&out of the game, in the first and second lineups.  He won’t start, unless there is an injury, but will get quality minutes.  Waiters will add a little “umpf” to the Thunder lineup.  Waiters, like Smith has issues with shot selection, but will make the high percentage shots.  He is a guy who will boost this Thunder lineup.  I’m not totally sure how much it will help them.  It definitely won’t harm them, but overall, this team might be fine without Waiters.

Wild Card Weekend Roundup

Well, that was disappointing.  Wild Card Weekend was very sad and boring.  We only had one good game!  It had to be the last one too!

Carolina-27 Arizona-16

I didn’t know how to feel about this game over the course of last week.  Carolina had barely made the playoffs by winning the NFL’s worst division.   We were playing our 3rd string quarterback.  It’s a disaster!  How was this a playoff game?

Of course, for the first time in history, ESPN got a NFL playoff game to broadcast, and it had to be this dumpster fire?  Sucks for them.

Anyways, this was just stupid.  Neither team played well.  Carolina scraped it out.  They took a 10-0 early lead, and I could already tell where this game was headed.  The offense was a disaster with Ryan Lindley at QB.  They couldn’t do anything.  The running game wouldn’t work, and throwing the ball was just to risky.  Did I mention they put up the fewest yards in a postseason game ever with 78?  That’s how bad it was.

Turnovers also really costed the Cardinals the game, which is funny because, the Panthers had three turnovers, matching Arizona.  Carolina played better than us, but man, I wouldn’t be scared of them, who have they beat this year?  Also, who has blown them out?   They can run the ball well though, rushing for 188 yards as a team Saturday.  Jonathan Stewart carried the bulk of those yards due to DeAngelo Williams’ injury.

The Panthers lost two fumbles, one coming from a failed punt return, where Brenton Bersin tried to catch it with his knees I guess (we’ll have another knee catch later).  The turnover gave Arizona it’s first score of the day, with Ryan Lindley threw a TD pass to Darren Fells, putting them on the board with the score being 10-7.  I had hope at that point.

Then, later in the second quarter, a Cam Newton interception gave Arizona the ball at the Carolina one yard line, thanks to a big return by Antonio Cromartie.  Marion Grice took it into the end zone, and the Cardinals were up 14-13 at halftime.

In the third quarter, is where having Ryan Lindley at QB was truly exposed.  It wasn’t only that however.  This Cardinals defense, who has won multiple games this year and last, completely collapsed yesterday.  In all likelihood, this was something that was supposed to go right, and it didn’t.  The Cardinals missed tons of tackles, that gave Carolina big chunk plays, setting them up.  This, if anything, was supposed to keep them in the game, and in the third, it let them down.

First, the Panthers drove down the field, and thanks to terrible defense, and scored on a Cam Newton TD pass, putting them up 20-14.  On the kickoff, Ted Ginn Jr. fumbled, and Carolina recovered in the red zone.  At this point, I knew it would get ugly fast.  And it did.  It did just that.

Four plays later, big boy Mike Tolbert was in the end zone on a rushing TD.  27-14 Panthers.  I knew it was over, and we still had more than a quarter left to play.

With 11:53 left in the game though, the Panthers fumbled again, and Arizona recovered inside the ten yard line.  I thought, that a score here could spark something.

But no, Ryan Lindley forces a ball, and it goes for one of the worst interceptions you will ever see.  It was just terrible.

Anyways, the fact that me, or anyone else thought the Cardinals could make a playoff run with Lindley at QB was insane.  I wasn’t feeling it.  I knew this game could get ugly, even though the Panthers do suck.  You have to have a QB in this league.  The Cardinals didn’t have one on their biggest stage.

Screen Shot 2015-01-04 at 9.09.55 AM
This just makes me sad.

It only makes you think what this team could’ve done completely healthy.  I’m proud of them.  It was a hard season, dealing with all the injuries.  We won 11 games, better than I thought.  The injuries though, just came to be too much, especially when you have them at your most valuable position.

The Larry Fitzgerald contract issue is something I’m not worried about.  When the time comes, I’ll get to it. It’s not something I’ll enjoy talking about.

Baltimore-30 Pittsburgh-17

Last week, I had convinced myself, even with all the hatred I have for the Pittsburgh Steelers franchise, that this was a team that could end up playing in the Super Bowl.  They had everything they needed.  I liked them and New England as the AFC’s top contenders.  That changed quickly.

Really, I have liked Baltimore all season.  I knew they would get in.  The question was, how far would they make it?  I honestly didn’t see them beating Pittsburgh.  This Ravens team hadn’t been looking good the past three weeks.  They didn’t look playoff worthy to me.

Those last three weeks of the season, the Ravens’ offense couldn’t get going.  Slow starts had plagued them.  They would fall behind, and come close to losing.  You can’t do that in the playoffs.  And Saturday, they didn’t.

Funny I say that, because Baltimore didn’t score till the second quarter.  The Steelers led 3-0 after the first quarter.  It was the fact that, Pittsburgh didn’t do anything either.

In the second quarter, the Ravens went down the field and scored on a rushing TD, going up 7-3.  Another field goal by Pittsburgh followed.  The Steelers were playing without Le’Veon Bell.  I didn’t think it would have this big of an impact.  I thought, that without Bell, they would throw the ball more against a pretty bad Baltimore secondary.

Ben Rothlisberger didn’t have a good game with a 37.8 QBR. The Steelers didn’t score a TD in the first half.  It wasn’t a start anyone saw coming.  If anything, I expected Baltimore to start that way.

The Ravens didn’t run the ball either.  They didn’t have to though.  Joe Flacco is a different player in the playoffs.  With a 85.9 QBR, Flacco threw for 259 yards and 2 TD’s.  He plays at a different level.  There are some players and teams that are like that.  “It’s playoff time, let’s kick it up a notch”.

To add to Pittsburgh’s slow start, the Steelers turned the ball over three times.  Two Big Ben interceptions cost them, and a Heath Miller fumble cost them while trying to make a comeback down 13 at the end of the game.

The third quarter was all Baltimore, and it gave them a 11 point lead after a Justin Tucker field goal and a Joe Flacco TD pass.

The Steelers answered soon after, cutting the lead to 20-15.

The next couple scores were all Baltimore.  A field goal and a Joe Flacco TD pass put the Ravens up 30-15 with 7:56 remaining.  The Steelers never came back from it.

Baltimore beat my expectations.  I was rooting for them, truthfully.  I’ve kinda been a Ravens bandwagon fan.  If they’re in the playoffs, and my teams aren’t, I root for them.  I love Joe Flacco as a player, and I love Ozzie Newsome as a GM.

Pittsburgh had one bad game, and it let them down.  I didn’t think missing Le’Veon Bell would have that big of an impact.  It killed them on Saturday.  That’s how valuable and great he is.  Now, we have a division winner knocked out early.  A division winner that we could have seen in the Super Bowl.  Welcome to the Playoffs.

It’s a disappointing end to a great season for the Steelers.  They finally have big time offensive weapons.  Now, they have to capitalize on it.

One of those Rothlisberger interceptions was made by Terrell Suggs, who actually caught the ball with his knees.

Indianapolis-26 Cincinnati-10

There was two ways this game would play out: 1) The Bengals offense and Andy Dalton don’t do anything 2) Both offenses are on fire and it’s a shootout.

It turned out to be #1.  It’s not like though, Andy Dalton threw three interceptions and cost his team the game.  The Bengals did nothing offensively.  Dalton didn’t have a great game, but no one gave him help.  His offensive line gave him no protection, leading to rushed throws.  A.J. Green, the Bengals top target, was out with a concussion.

Cincinnati’s defense didn’t do a whole lot either.  They got no pressure on Andrew Luck, and their secondary couldn’t cover, leading Luck to throw for 376 yards and a TD, while only missing 13 throws.  The Colts ran the ball, but not with the guy you’d expect.  Boom Herron ran for 56 yards and a TD.  Trent Richardson didn’t even touch the football.  That tells you that the Colts have finally realized that he pretty much sucks.

The Bengals couldn’t score Sunday.  10 points isn’t enough, especially against an Andrew Luck lead offense.  Cincy had trouble running too, which is a little concerning given who the Colts started on the defensive line.

Andrew Luck is just phenomenal.  There is not much around him on this team.  He just makes things happen, like this:

I mean, he was on the run, and falling down.  That TD catch put the Colts up 20-10 after a slow 3rd quarter start from both teams.  Really, the Colts dominated this game.  There’s no point of going through this.  The Bengals did almost nothing all day.  They didn’t get a first down till the 4th quarter.

This wasn’t a complete shock though.  The Bengals and Andy Dalton have never been good in playoff games.  Marvin Lewis is 0-6 in his postseason career as a coach.  Dalton takes a dump in every primetime game, it seems.  Lots of people saw this coming.

Though, the Colts hadn’t looked great the past couple weeks.  It led some to believe this might be contested.  But then, you remind yourself the Colts had nothing to play for the last three weeks of the season.  Their division sucks!  It didn’t matter.

Again, it’s another playoff meltdown for Cincinnati.  It’s the same way every year.  Really, there’s not a lot else to say.  The criticism will reign on, deservedly so.

Dallas-24 Detroit-20

This was easily the game of the weekend.  This is how playoff games should be.  I mean, this thing went down to wire.

In the beginning, it looked like another one of these Cowboys games where they get blown out due to bad defense and stagnant offense.  The Lions took a 14-0 after the first quarter.  Golden Tate caught a 51 yard pass from Matthew Stafford for the first TD, due to a Dallas defender slipping on the play.

So yea, it wasn’t the greatest start for Dallas.  Maybe if Tony Romo had thrown a pick, it would’ve been even worse.

Simply, the Cowboys just needed to wake up.  It took them a while.  A 71 yard TD catch by Terrence Williams got Jerry’s World jumping before halftime, but Dallas still trailed 17-7 at the break.

Look, we knew something crazy would happen to end this game.  Whether the Cowboys came back (cough, cough) or Detroit scored 60 more points, something was coming.

Turns out, a field goal that the Lions kicked with 8:41 left in the third quarter was their last score.

From there, turnovers and bad officiating (really don’t want to get into that) plauged Detroit, and Dallas scored two more TD’s plus a field goal.  With 2:32 left, Terrence Williams caught another TD pass, putting the Cowboys up 24-20.  On a beautiful drive, spanning just over 5:30, the pass won the game for the Cowboys.  It was a great play overall, with Tony Romo stepping up in the pocket, then making the throw.

So what went wrong for Detroit?  Well, a frozen offense in the second half didn’t help, but the defense allowed Dallas to score multiple times.  You can blame the refs all you want, but it wasn’t just them.  The Lions defense is really good, yet you didn’t expect this to happen.  It’s a disappointing way to end youR season.  Even though I’ve felt Detroit’s defense was overrated, it was good enough for me to think they would hold on to this game.

As for the Cowboys, I mean, what’d you expect?  It’s the Dallas (whatever word of your preference) Cowboys.  They pull off crazy stuff or blow it.  One of the other.  All I will say: Have fun next week, Dallas

Next Week: Divisional Round

Saturday:

Baltimore-New England, 4:35 PM EST

Carolina-Seattle, 8:15 EST

Sunday:

Dallas-Green Bay, 1:05 PM EST

Indianapolis-Denver, 4:40 PM EST

Previewing the New Years Six, Part 2

We’re jumping right into these next three games, no jive.

Cotton Bowl: No.8 Michigan State vs. No.5 Baylor, New Years Day, 12:30 PM EST

I’m going to be honest here.  I love this Baylor team.  I’ve defended them since my preview at the beginning of the season.  I had them in playoff.  They got screwed.  It wasn’t their fault.  It’s too bad.  Something needs to change.

I’ll probably write a column about this, but Michigan State, you could make a case, that they got screwed too.  How?  Well, we need eight teams.

(I’m getting ahead of myself)

As for this game, there is one true matchup that will decide it.

Baylor’s offense is incredible.  They can absolutely dominate you.  It a matter of minutes you can be down two plus possessions.  They attack that fast.  The more stunning part about is that they attack from everywhere.  They can throw and run the ball.  The balanced offense is a trip.  The Bears average 581 yards of offense a game.  346 of those come from the air.

With the offensive assault, they put up close to 49 points a game.  There is no way you can stop them.

Unless your Michigan State, who has one of the Nation’s best defenses.  This is the key matchup.

The Spartans run defense is their highlight.  They only allow 97.5 rushing yards a game.  Michigan State has multiple playmakers within their front seven that contribute to this.  Not only do they shut you down, and not allow first downs, but they don’t give up points.  The Spartans give up just under 20 points a game.  The defense is totally stout.  Baylor’s quest will be scoring on it.

Baylor’s defense isn’t great, but it’s enough that it got them here (let’s just keep it at that).

I expect this game, like others during this New Years Six, to be a shootout.  I’m not sure there is anyone who can stop the Bears’ offense.  Michigan State will have trouble defending it.  Their problem, is if they can answer the amount of points Baylor puts up.

It’s not that they can’t.  The Spartans have a great quarterback in Connor Cook, and have decent running game to compliment him.  However, if the rushing game can’t get going, the Spartans may have to throwing more they would like too.  That could result in some trouble.  Prediction: Baylor-50 Michigan State-28

PLAYOFFS

This is a very emotional portion of this column for me.  The College Football Playoff is amazing.  It is so much better than what we’ve had since 1998.  It does need changes, but that we will worry about later.

See, I wasn’t going to even write about college football this year.  I would still watch it, yea, but, what’s the point of covering it, when it has a cheesy and bad ending?  When the wrong team plays in or wins the National Championship?

We will make this thing incredible.  It already is.  It can be better.

Anyways, it’s finally here.  It’s playoff time, in college football.

Playoff #1: No.1 Alabama vs. No.4 Ohio State, New Years Day, 8:30 PM EST

I hate both of these teams (That’s a nice way to start).  Straight up.  I don’t like either one.  I’m going to dread seeing one of these teams playing for the National Championship.

One, Ohio State doesn’t belong here.  I sound like I’m ranting, and really, I kinda am.   I’m going to get into to it, but I don’t like that they’re here.

Two, I think Alabama is over-rated.  Don’t get me wrong, they deserve to be here.  They won the SEC, the best conference in the Nation.

Let’s talk about Alabama first:

Their defense is outstanding.  Like Michigan State, they have incredible linebackers who stuff the run.  Teams can’t get above 90 yards rushing on them.  Teams can’t score on them either.  They shut you down.

Ohio State is the Arizona Cardinals of college.  Their guys get hurt, someone comes up, and plays great.  Then they get hurt, and it turns to slosh.  But that is where the road turns for Ohio State.

So yea, they’re a little hard to figure out.  Wait, do you remember who Braxton Miller is?

Cardale Jones was great in the BIG 10 Championship Game.  He’s a really good quarterback, from what I saw.  Ohio State will have to find others ways to move the ball though.  Meaning, they will have to be creative.  If Alabama shuts down Ohio State’s offense, it’s not over.  It means we have a final score below 14 points.

Alabama has great players on their offense.  With as-always amazing running backs and one of the best receivers in the Nation, they don’t need much else.

Honestly, they don’t have much else.  I’ve never been under the impression Blake Sims is a good QB.  Not once.  His accuracy seems wobbly.  I’ve never seen him throw a ball where I go “Wow, that a was great throw.”  He’s a game-manager.  He preforms well due to what is around him.  The play-makers around him are so good, he doesn’t have to do much.

I know that Alabama is really good.  I know they deserve to be here.  I get it.  But, when you go up against teams that have been on a tear.  Teams who have surprised us, that’s when it gets scary.  The chance that Ohio State pulls this off is very high.  It won’t be in blowout fashion.  It won’t be in game-winning form.  This will be smash-mouth, defensive football.  Ohio State can shut down Alabama.  It’s if, they can answer.  That’s the problem..  Prediction: Alabama-17 Ohio State-14

Before we get into the next game, I want to look back.  I want to look back at my predictions for this Playoff, because the parallels, are hilarious.

Well, Well , Well.
Well, Well , Well.

This is, somewhat hitius?

I did pretty good.  I had two teams in, and the one team who got screwed.  But the four seed, I don’t want to talk about it.  Remember when we thought Oklahoma was going to be good?

Take a look at that National Championship.  That’s where we’re going next, in the first round.

Playoff #2: No.2 Oregon vs. No.3 Florida State, New Years Day, 5:00 PM EST

This is going to be fun.  Really fun.

Florida State has played two or three good teams this year.  That’s it.  I don’t believe that they’re overrated, but this is a game that could expose that.  Oregon’s offense, like Baylor’s, is absolutely incredible.  They can attack from anywhere.  The Ducks though, use the run a bit better.  Oregon averages 546 yards of offense a game.  308 of those come from Marcus Mariota in the passing game.  Mariota won the Heisman a few weeks back.  He’s really good.  He is going to play well, every game.  Oregon averages 46 points a game.  They score a lot.  It’s something the Florida State defense will have to, well, try their best at.

This game is all about the offenses and the quarterback matchup.  These are the past two years’ Heisman winners.  It’s all about them.  Defense will be extinct in this game.  It’s all about who can outscore the other.

Florida State mostly throws the ball.  Winston has huge arm, and nice mobility.  He can throw on the run too. Out of 434 yards of offense the Seminoles gain each game, close to 300 of them come from the pass.  Florida State doesn’t score as much as Oregon.  Turnovers interrupt their drives.  That’s a team thing.  It’s something you have to limit.  Do your job, and they won’t happen.  The players on this team are too good for it to be blamed on one person.

Again, I don’t think defense is a factor in this game.  Florida State’s defense is a lot better, as they have great secondary play.  Both teams give up third down completions like crazy.  There will be some long drives in this game.

This will be a drama-filled, crazy ending game.  That’s pretty accustom to Florida State.  I’d say that four or five of their games this season ended that way.  They sneak games out.  But against Oregon, you don’t sneak games out.  You have to play till the end.  Florida State can’t start slow tonight.  Oregon will jump on them.  I expect this game to go down-to-the-wire.  Last possession wins.  Prediction:  Oregon-48 Florida State-45

National Championship Prediction: Oregon vs. Alabama, January 12th, 8:00 PM EST

Have fun on New Years Day.  Don’t forget, not only do we have New Years Six games, but the Citrus Bowl and Outback Bowl are on today.  I will have a preview and roundup column of the National Championship when it comes around.